Parshas Ki Seitzei
Trust and Position
How far are you willing to trust? In a recent conversation with a friend I
encouraged him to distinguish between events that are within his control
and events that are not within his control. The events that are within his
control deserve his best effort in accomplishing for himself and his
family. The events beyond his control demand that he trust G-d for their
outcome. He can pray, in fact he should pray a lot, but along with prayer
he must trust that what G-d does is for his benefit and the benefit of
For example. Going to minyan every morning and evening is mostly within
our control. We may have to rearrange our schedules accordingly and
negotiate with family and job to accomplish it, but if there is the desire
to do so there is the will, and if there is the will there is a way. On
the other hand, confronting illness or disability in self or others may
impose circumstances beyond our control. As much as we might desire, will,
and try to overcome the illness or disability the reality may be that
daily minyan is impossible. At that point, effort becomes wasteful and
trust becomes everything. It is no longer a matter of action but of
attitude. We have only one choice to make, accept the limitation as G-d’s
will or not acknowledge it as G-d’s will. Either way the illness and the
disability remain the limitation that they are.
As the Jews were preparing to transition beyond the desert experience,
Moshe instructed them in some detailed laws of sensitivity and trust.
For example: The law of retrieving and returning a lost object (22:1) is
predicated on trusting G-d. It presumes that all objects are valuable to
their rightful owner, either because of their intrinsic value or because
they were given to him by G-d. As such, we act on the assumption that the
owner did not forgo finding his lost object and would be grateful for its
return. That assumption imposes responsibilities on us to do everything in
our means to return that item to its owner.
The Halacha goes so far as to discuss the parameters of “retrieving and
returning a lost object” over other obligations one might have. Must one
forgo attending an important meeting in order to retrieve and return a
lost object? What if retrieving a lost object involves action that would
otherwise be demeaning to a person’s stature in society? In the context of
this discussion the answers are not important – the mere asking of the
question is! Who else would even pose the question in the first place? Of
course my schedule and my dignity take priority over someone else’s lost
object! However, that is not necessarily so from the perspective of Torah
and the trust we must have in G-d.
In so far as the Torah is concerned, there is always an ethical
deliberation and choice to be made. If the law is that I must forgo my
meeting to do the Mitzvah of returning a lost object I must accept that it
is G-d’s will that I do the Mitzvah rather than attend the meeting.
Regardless of what potential the meeting might represent, I must trust
that G-d’s desire is for me to retrieve the lost object and try to find
its owner. Whatever the gain in doing the Mitzvah and whatever the loss in
not attending the meeting, I must trust that the outcome is for my benefit
and the benefit of everyone else. (Never judge a Mitzvah by its cover! -
I once shared the story of a good friend who gave up what appeared to be a
very lucrative business opportunity because it involved working on behalf
of an organization considered by all to be a cult. When he posed the
Shaylah he ended his Shaylah by stating, “Rabbi, do not think about the
money or the opportunity. I only want to know what the Halacha says.
Nothing else is important. If the answer is yes, great! If the answer is
no than it is no. Clearly, G-d doesn’t think the opportunity is the right
thing for my family and me. Just tell me what the right thing is.” (It
being a few years since my friend forwent the opportunity I can tell you
that his business has done extremely well since that time. In many
respects he has gained far more than that one opportunity, both
financially and spiritually!”
Additionally, the Mitzvah of retrieving and returning a lost object
highlights the understanding that who we are and what we have is not
necessarily paramount at any given moment. Basically, we must all take
turns. Sometimes my issues will take precedence over all else; at other
times, your issues will take priority. It is because we believe that G-d
created and maintains all that we are able to accept that I am no more
important than you and you are not any more important than me. In the eyes
of G-d we are equally important; otherwise He would not have created us to
exist at the same time.
In a recent lecture I pointed out that appreciating every person, Jew and
non-Jew, as the creation of G-d is among our most difficult challenges.
The scene in Bereshis (18:17-33) where Avraham attempted to avert the
destruction of Sodom highlights this obligation in the most extreme terms.
The scene began with G-d telling us that He was going to do something
about the “cries of Sodom.” G-d then presented Avraham with the
opportunity of defending them even though there was never the possibility
of G-d rescinding His decision. Why go through the process if the outcome
was already decided? I explained that the entire scene was to teach
Avraham “and his household and children after him” (18:19) that the ways
of G-d were truly “charitable and judicious (18:19).” As the nation that
would be a blessing to the families of the earth G-d granted Avraham the
unique opportunity of questioning His manner of justice. In doing so,
Avraham was able to teach the rest of the world that G-d is truly
righteous and just.
However, the entire discussion concerned saving the amoral, unjust,
anti-charitable, murdering, citizens of Sodom! Why did Avraham care? If
G-d decided that a certain society must be destroyed who was he to
question and argue? The answer is that from a purely intellectual point of
view we should not attempt to change G-d’s decree of destruction.
Certainly, if we are not emotionally invested in the people of that
society we will accept G-d’s decision rather than fight. However, from an
emotional point of view, from the perspective of caring, from the
understanding that every human being has both the intrinsic value
of being G-d’s intended creation as well as the value of whatever
potential he or she represents, we should fight! In the end we must also
trust that G-d’s decision is just and charitable and the only decision
that will best benefit all involved.
The second law in this week’s Parsha is the case of the “Rebellious Son.”
(21:18-21) Regardless of whether or not such a case ever happened, the
mere notion of parents bringing their child to the Sanhedrin (supreme
court) and requesting that he put to death defies our emotional
sensibilities. Yet, that is what the Torah describes! How can that be? The
answer is obvious. If we trust G-d that He only does those things that
benefit us and the rest of the universe then we also trust that He only
commands those things that are good and that will benefit all involved. As
I asked at the very beginning of this essay, how far are we willing to
truly trust G-d?
What about position? Are we willing to trust G-d when He designated our
position within humanity and within society. What about man vs. woman? The
eternal battle between the sexes; how much are we willing to trust and
accept? (22:5) “A woman should not wear male clothing and a man should not
wear a woman’s clothes…” Regardless of the specifics of the Mitzvah, the
fact is that the Torah states as clear as can be that clothing is not
optional. Whatever the mechanism for designating male vs. female garments,
there will always be a distinction between men and woman in the manner of
their dress that must be respected; otherwise, “…it is an abomination to
This is not a question of equality or chauvinism; it is purely a question
of trust. Do we trust that G-d knew what He was doing when He separated
the original Adam into male and female? Do we accept that His intention in
doing so was to designate distinction and purpose as created and mandated
by Him alone? Do we understand that when we attempt to blur those
distinctions under whatever rationalization and justification we might
contrive we are desecrating G-d’s intention and proclaiming that we know
better than G-d what is good for the individual and humanity!
Remember, the underlying value is that all people, Jew or non-Jew, man or
woman, are intrinsically valuable because we are all G-d’s intention.
Therefore, separation between people and nations should never result in
bigotry, racism, and prejudice. Just the opposite! The respect we show
each other should be the most expected standard of human behavior. No
matter where we go and whom we encounter we should know that we are safe
from harm to person, property, or ego. Unfortunately that is not yet so.
As the children of Avraham, as the heirs to the Promised Land, as G-d’s
designated teachers of what it means to be created in His image of charity
and righteousness, we must first trust G-d. We must trust that all He
commands and all that He doses is for our benefit and the benefit of the
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Torah.org
The author is the Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley
Village, CA, and Assistant Principal of YULA.